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  • Evelyn Espinoza

The Little Sapa Sellers

This image has haunted me for a while. It was the photograph taken on my phone that focused upon the keychains and blurred everyone/thing else. That really caught my attention. The sparkly trinkets are the focus of the photograph.



Around our hotel in Sapa, Vietnam lots of little girls ran around trying to sell keychains to the tourists; many of them with even littler sisters strapped on their backs to gain more sympathy. Our tour guide told us not to buy from them. The government wanted these children to be in school. Selling these little things deterred school attendance. I get the conflict: parents, who are (probably) struggling financially, have their children help out by selling knickknacks. The parents probably see this as more beneficial then sending them to school. School may help in the long run, but we need the money now situation.


The Little Sapa Seller

oil on canvas paper

9 x 12

2019


It was cold in the mountains during January. It was late in the night. Her English is limited to "You buy?" and "How many?" Her face is so tired. But can you see the glimmer of hope in her face because I stopped and I might buy something.


The Little Sapa Sellers

oil on canvas paper

9 x 12

2022


In the photograph, and in the painting, she isn't even the focus of her own portrait. The attractive keychains are. The girl behind her is running to me as quickly as she can. Her face is sweaty and her little sister piggybacked is clearly wearing her down. But she runs joltingly towards me shouting her wares, hopeful that I might buy something. I don't. And they move on dejected, hoisting the toddlers up as they search out more wandering tourists.

I had plenty of cash I could have given them. Would it have helped? Reaffirming the parents' decision to send their children out over school? I don't know how much the government helps out families.


This is my second attempt at painting these girls. I feel the keychains stand out more: more vivid colors, sharper outlines, drawing the eye to them. The girls are painted with less detail, less focus, blending into the background.


The Little Sapa Sellers

watercolor on cold-pressed paper

9 x 12

2022


Third attempt: This watercolor painting has a lighter background, the girls faces and clothing blend and bleed into the background well, further promoting the idea that they do not star in their own portrait. The brightly colored, keychains demand more attention than their carrier.


I will say the villagers do receive a percentage from the tour guides which we tourists pay for. How much, I do not know.


I do wonder where these girls will be in 10 years time. It's a hard life for so young a person, and many have it so much rougher. Thoughtfully consider gifting and donating to registered charities where the proceeds go to those in need.

I especially love the work of The Voices of the Martyrs at https://www.persecution.com/ and the work of Campus Crusade for Christ https://www.cru.org/


I hope you enjoyed these paintings and the story that goes along with them.



Evelyn

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